Update: Samsung Takes Its Apple Fight To France, Apple Goes Big In China

No signs of this fight cooling off soon. Fresh from a ruling in Germany that denied Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) a Europe-wide injunction on Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1-inch tablets but upheld it in that country, Samsung has now filed a direct suit against Apple in France, the first time the fight has moved to that country. The news comes as Apple looks to be opening another front in its patent defense, with 40 new design patents now registered in China. [updated below with comment from Samsung]

Several months into the patent disputes between the two companies we are now starting to see some trends emerging in how the two are going at each other: while Apple has largely focussed on design patents, alleging that Samsung has ripped off the look of the iPhone and iPad in its Galaxy smartphones and tablets, Samsung seems to be making more of its claims on what’s inside.

The case filed in a court in Paris focuses on the technology that Apple uses in its three different iPhones and two generations of iPad tablets — “not on the design,” according to a Samsung spokesperson quoted by the AFP.

So far, there are few details from Samsung directly on what technology is in question but the AFP quotes a source guessing it could be connected to UMTS radio technology, which is used in 3G data networks.

The first court appearance for this case is likely to only come in December.

It is not clear yet whether this court case will be the first of many that Samsung plans to file in individual countries in Europe.

Update: In an email, Samsung’s spokesperson Kim Titus would not directly answer whether there would me more suits in further markets, but that this is not the last we will hear from the company in legal fights: “Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property, and to ensure our continued innovation and growth in the mobile communication business,” he wrote.

Last week, the company had a setback when a Dusseldorf court upheld an injunction on the Galaxy Tab in Germany — although it also had a boost when the court also reinforced its earlier decision to keep the ban to Germany, and not extend it throughout the rest of Europe.

All together, Samsung and Apple now have suits against each other in four countries in Europe — Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and now France — as well as Japan, Korea, the U.S. and Australia.

What’s next? Could it be China? Apple has just been granted some 40 new design patents in China, with 38 covering devices ranging from the iPhone to its range of PCs; the others focus on the designs of Apple’s new retail operation in China.

The patent blog Patently Apple notes that Apple has been registering “hundreds” of patents in the last year in the country, but without a completely clear objective.

Its guess is that the patents are there to arm Apple in potential suits against copycat manufacturers — of which there are dozens. Could they potentially also be used against more high-profile competitors, like Samsung, which also manufactures products in the country?